Crafting a legacy

John Buckner still sharing his passions in retirement

John Buckner

John Buckner enjoying woodworking in his shop.

Classical music from a dusty Bose stereo usually accompanies John Buckner as he turns wood in his garage.

Music and woodworking have been prominent in the life of the retired long-time Washburn music professor, but woodworking has become his favored craft. It's what he shares with students at Bethel College in North Newton, Kansas, or at workshops throughout the region.

An only child and now with no living family, John, 83, has always enjoyed sharing his skills and passions with younger generations. His art and the students he has taught are part of his legacy. He's also leaving a legacy for Washburn with a gift in his estate plan to fund campus beautification projects.

"I would like to see my legacy used for something that would benefit the whole Washburn campus because of the fun I had working with non-music majors," John said. "My idea is to make the campus an even more pleasant place for everybody."

John learned to play piano at age four and to turn wood at seven. He taught and directed the band at Lincoln (Kansas) High School in the 1960s. He started at Washburn in 1970 and taught conducting, music education and music appreciation.

John Buckner

The fruits of John's labor.

"I thoroughly enjoyed meeting the challenge of these kids who were daring me to make them enjoy classical music," he said.

He made a point to memorize everyone's name the first week of class because he believes there's nothing more important to anybody, especially a young person, than their name.

John retired from Washburn in 1993, and was visiting a former colleague in a retirement community in North Newton when he decided it would be a good place for him. Though Bethel and much of the community is Mennonite, Buckner always feels welcome.

"I'm a total anomaly in a Mennonite community where family is the whole essence of things," he said. "I have absolutely none of that to talk about. That makes no difference. The community is wonderfully accepting."

John works with Bethel students as wood turning apprentices, and they sell pieces during the holiday season at a coffee shop on campus where regulars call him Dr. B. They make a good amount selling things like pens, spinning tops and kitchen items, but he's never wanted to make wood turning his vocation.

"I do it because I like to do it. I wake up every morning and think, ‘goody! I get to turn wood today.'"

Make Your Vision for Washburn a Reality

You can help shape the future of Washburn University — and it's easier than you might think. Whether you give a gift from your will or designate Washburn as a beneficiary of your retirement plan or other assets, the process is simple and rewarding. Contact Jeannie Shy at 785.670.2734 or to learn more.

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